By JEFFARAH GIBSON
Tribune Features Writer
AS the country grapples with the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, a local therapist is encouraging Bahamians to implement self-care strategies, to unplug and decompress even as they put their energy into relief efforts.
Jenna Christie, a social worker, marriage and family therapist, said post traumatic stress disorder is what many people tend to experience after a terrifying event, even if they were not directly impacted by it.
In order to to manage this condition, Ms Christie said people have to detach for a period from the constant influx of news, images and videos of the disaster that left many dead and others displaced, having lost all their belongings.
“We are all affected by this. The average Bahamian wants to be in the know. We want to keep up with what is happening and we want to know what is the latest information. We need to remember that as we are continuing to watch these videos, as we are continuing to spread this information, we are traumatising ourselves and this takes a toll our psyche, too,” she said.
“You can experience PTSD symptoms just from watching these things happen to others. You don’t have to be experiencing them yourself.”
Ms Christie said many people may not even be aware of how constant exposure to such a traumatic event may be affecting them.
“I want to caution people from constantly sharing videos because you don’t know whose family members you may be showing things to. You may send a video around for informational purposes but then it turns out that they actually know the person in the video you sent. That is just traumatic,” she said. “But we need to be extremely cautious about that. This is why self-care is just so important to the point where you say, ‘I am not going to look at this video’.”
Even as a mental health professional, Ms Christie had to learn how to switch off mentally so that her work does not affect her personal life.
“We have to know when to turn it off because we take those cases with us mentally. You have to learn through practice to detach at the end of the day and focus on yourself and your well-being,” she said.
Following all the coverage of the destruction wreaked by Hurricane Dorian can undoubtedly be a mentally exhausting experience, Ms Christie suggests people putting a limit on what they are focusing on.
“Put a limit on what you consume, how many videos you watch and how many conversations you indulge in. This is not to say you are forgetting about the persons who are deeply affected. We still have a lot to be thankful for and you must find the joy in what is present right now,” she said.
Ms Christie, a trained welfare officer with the Department of Social Services, is one among several counsellors and clinical psychologists who have committed to offering their services for a crisis management counselling initiative in response to Dorian. Once logistical details have been ironed out, the initiative will be launched immediately.
Ms Christie said crisis counselling is as crucial for survivors as having food and water.
“It is of the utmost importance. A lot of persons look at the basic, tangible, physical items that they need, but they also need this,” she said.
Ms Christie said the crisis management initiative will offer a strength-based approach, empowering survivors and giving them a sense of control over their lives again.
According to the American Counselling Association, crisis management should begin about three to five days after a traumatic incident.
“Sessions shouldn’t be too long – no more than an hour or two – because anything longer will become counterproductive, because the person now becomes overwhelmed,” said Ms Christie. “However, this also depends on when a person is willing and ready to talk about what they are experiencing.”
The proposed location for the initiative is the University of the Bahamas. More details about the crisis management counselling plan will be released in the coming days.